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Annabelle Creation

After the inexplicable success of its first entry, the ‘Annabelle’ series continues with ‘Annabelle Creation’. As a prequel, it charts the beginnings of everyone’s favourite evil dolly. Unlike its dreadful predecessor, ‘Annabelle: Creation’ is easier to watch. Due to better direction and fine acting, it also remembers to be scary. Having a Grimm’s Fairy Tales-like atmosphere, it offers evidence, that with a bit of creative flair, a decent horror film can be made on a micro budget.

Several years after the tragic death of their daughter, doll manufacturer Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto), take a group of orphans into their mansion. Janice (Taitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson) are taken care of by nun Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). Exploring the sprawling mansion, Janice comes across a locked room containing a doll named Annabelle. Unknowingly releasing an evil force, Janice and her friends have to fight against the powerful entity before Annabelle’s porcelain-made hands grips them in her clutches.

The best thing one can say about ‘Annabelle: Creation’ is that it makes an effort. That isn’t a bad comment as David F Sandberg’s direction makes the most of the story. Infusing a bit of mystical folklore as well as examining issues of grief and isolation, this entry is more substantial than the last. Whilst still relying too much on jump scares, Sandberg also knows how to hold back occasionally with scenes of dead silence. Those are more effective in conjuring spooky frights with the cinematography perfectly capturing the gloomy mood of the mansion and its inhabitants.

The performances also make ‘Annabelle: Creation’ watchable. Although it’s unusual seeing LaPalgia and Otto in a horror movie, their stoic presence elevate the tone, making it more interesting. Wilson and Bateman are also especially good as the little girls caught in Annabelle’s deadly trap. Their co-stars rise to the challenge of actually giving believable performances amidst the horrific shenanigans. Thankfully there isn’t much blood on display, as Sandberg seems keener on the unseen which is more imaginative.

‘Annabelle: Creation’ is far better than the first entry. It still isn’t the best of its genre but the attempt in making the fairly predictable screenplay work is commendable. Spending a bit of money on good actors and writing isn’t such a bad thing which can pay dividends even when trying to scare viewers silly.

Rating out of 10: 6

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Oculus

Mike Flanagan has made a name as a horror movie master. Directing works such as ‘Doctor Sleep’ and the Netflix series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’, Flanagan has proved his worth. While perhaps not as well-known as similar directors like Wes Craven or George Romero, Flanagan has built a credible body of work. ‘Oculus’ is among them with Flanagan’s skill in exploring the human condition as well as chilling the spine clearly evident.

Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) are haunted by their past. Eleven years earlier their parents Marie (Katee Sackhoff) and Alan (Rory Cochrane) suffered horrible deaths. Kaylie believes an ancient mirror her father purchased held demonic qualities which led to their demise. Attempting to prove her theory, against her brother’s wishes, she uses the mirror to summon evil spirits with potentially deadly consequences.

Despite having an abundance of frights and the occasional blood, ‘Oculus’ is more than those superficial elements. Due to Flanagan’s ability in crafting engaging characters, ‘Oculus’ mainly focuses on emotional traumas. How their parent’s deaths affected them makes Kaylie and Tim complex and interesting people to watch. Their determination in concluding a never-ending nightmare sees them trying to understand the evil they face which is more powerful than they realise.

Occasionally the alternating timelines can be confusing. This may be a ploy by Flanagan to keep viewers on their toes, in which case it succeeds. In terms of scares, ‘Oculus’ generally has an atmosphere of silence. Loud noises don’t have to be in every horror movie, with the silent unseen foe just as creepy as a noisy one. Flanagan’s use of cinematography is also on a high scale, with off-kilter angles and shadowy corners reflecting the torment his characters endure.

‘Oculus’ is another solid horror movie from Flanagan. He knows what works whilst exhibiting flair in balancing characterisation and expected thrills. His movies are always worth seeking out with his addition to the horror maestro pantheon assured.

Rating out of 10: 7

CURRENLTY STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME.